Seven games out of first place just a couple of weeks ago, the Tigers have taken advantage of the Indians' slump and now look like the best team in the American League Central.
The Indians' record stood at 30-15 on the 24th of May; that morning they held a seven-game lead over the second-place Detroit Tigers.
My, how things can change in just a couple of weeks. Since then, the Indians have lost 11 of 15 while the Tigers have won nine of 14; if Detroit beats Texas Wednesday night, they'll trail the Indians by just half a game in the American League Central standings.
And win or lose tonight -- winning's a tall order, with Alexi Ogando on the hill for the Rangers -- the Tigers have quite suddenly become the real favorites in the Central. According to Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report, the Tigers now have something like a 60-percent chance of winning the division, with the Indians and White Sox well behind.
Reasons for optimism about the Tigers, even aside from the numbers above?
Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez anchor a solid hitting attack. It's not at all assured that Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch will continue their potent hitting, but as they fall off some other Tigers are likely to improve. Especially Brandon Inge and whoever's playing second base (with the Tigers, you never know who that might be).
With Phil Coke returning to the Tigers' rotation tonight, they've once more got an intact Opening Day rotation, which features Justin Verlander but also includes four others who should be decent, at least. The one real question mark is Brady Penny, who's earned his 4.76 ERA with too many walks and not enough strikeouts.
If Penny should prove problematic or someone should get hurt, the Tigers do have a couple of viable options in the minors. Top prospect Jacob Turner has thrived this season in Class AA, and might be ready for a supporting role in the majors this summer. Andy Oliver struggled in his seven MLB starts -- five last season, two this season -- but his stuff and his triple-A performance suggests that he just needs more time and opportunity.
The Tigers, it should be said, are not deep in hitters. A few injuries over the next few months could cause real problems, because the bench is unimpressive and there's little help in the minors.
But all things considered, the bench and the minors might be moot. Based purely on talent, the Detroit Tigers are the best team in the American League Central and they're now the team to beat.
To read much, much more about the Tigers, please visit Bless You Boys.